Mines in the far north also need power, and some are starting to turn to renewables to help fuel their needs. Raglan Mine is part of the Glencore group, one of the largest global diversified natural resource companies. At the northernmost limit of Québec, Canada, Raglan is one of the richest basemetal mines in the world. The Raglan Mine property stretches 70 kilometres from east to west, and encompasses a series of high-grade nickel and copper ore deposits. Jean-François Verret outlines how his company strives to produce nickel safely and in a cost effective manner while showing respect for the environment and their host communities. This article originally appeared in The Circle 03.15.
Our site includes four underground mines, a concentrator, an accommodation complex and administrative buildings. It has all the infrastructures of a small municipality (a source of freshwater supply, fuel tanks, a water treatment plant, a power plant, etc.). A network of all-season roads links our mining site to the Donaldson airport as well as to the Deception Bay warehouses and seaport facilities. The ore extracted from our mines is crushed and processed onsite to produce a nickel-copper concentrate. Raglan Mine strives to be a model in the mining industry in terms of human resource development, equity towards its multicultural workforce and respect for the local communities and the environment. To fulfill this mission, Raglan is based on sustainable development principles.
The facilities of Raglan Mine are neither connected to hydro nor natural gas networks. As a result, we must produce our own electricity from diesel generators. To decrease our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reliance on fossil fuels we have, over the past few years, explored various ways of gradually introducing green energies in our power production portfolio. In 2009, the vision put forward by Raglan Mine on wind energy started to materialize through wind measuring, engineering and environmental impact studies as well as numerous consultation meetings with our host communities and other stakeholders. The four-year process revealed eye-opening results: the average wind speed in the area exceeded our expectations. In December 2013, following successful findings, with our partner TUGLIQ energy – a company that specializes in energy-generation solutions in northern environments – we purchased the wind turbine. This was the official kick-off of the pilot project.
The first step of our pilot project was completed in August 2014 with the erection of a three megawatt wind turbine that is expected to offset the mine’s diesel dependence by 5 per cent, amounting to approximately 2.4 million litres annually. This could decrease our GHG emissions by 7,200 equivalent tonnes of CO2 per year, which is comparable to removing 1,516 vehicles from the road. The second step of this pilot project involves integrating an energy storage system with the energy network to enable maximum energy penetration from the wind turbine. This should be complete this summer and would be the first of its kind in the Canadian Arctic. By twinning the wind turbine with this storage system, we should be able to capture wind power surpluses and save them for times when there is less wind.
We believe our investments in this pilot project will allow us to innovatively decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, maximize our energy efficiency, but more importantly, reduce our carbon footprint and preserve the environment in which we operate. It is our hope that the expertise that we gain related to this pilot project will provide a future benefit to the surrounding Inuit villages.
JEAN-FRANÇOIS VERRET is Director, Projects and Exploration, Raglan Mine, Québec, Canada.